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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Timothy 1:16

Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Howbeit for this cause - That is, this was one of the causes, or this was a leading reason. We are not to suppose that this was the only one. God had other ends to answer by his conversion than this, but this was one of the designs why he was pardoned - that there might be for all ages a permanent proof that sins of the deepest dye might be forgiven. It was well to have one such example at the outset, that a doubt might never arise about the possibility of forgiving great transgressors. The question thus would be settled for ever.

That in me first - Not first in the order of time, as our translation would seem to imply, but that in me the first or chief of sinners ( ἐν ἐμοὶ ποώτῳ en emoi poōtō) he might show an example. The idea is, that he sustained the first rank as a sinner, and that Jesus Christ designed to show mercy to him as such, in order that the possibility of pardoning the greatest sinners might be evinced, and that no one might afterward despair of salvation on account of the greatness of his crimes.

Might shew forth all long-suffering - The highest possible degree of forbearance, in order that a case might never occur about which there could be any doubt. It was shown by his example that the Lord Jesus could evince any possible degree of patience, and could have mercy on the greatest imaginable offenders.

For a pattern - ὑποτύπωσιν hupotupōsinThis word occurs no where else in the New Testament, except in 2 Timothy 1:13, where it is rendered “form.” It properly means a form, sketch, or imperfect delineation. Then it denotes a pattern or example, and here it means that the case of Paul was an example for the encouragement of sinners in all subsequent times. It was that to which they might look when they desired forgiveness and salvation. It furnished all the illustration and argument which they would need to show that they might be forgiven. It settled the question forever that the greatest sinners might be pardoned; for as he was “the chief of sinners,” it proved that a case could not occur which was beyond the possibility of mercy.

Which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting - All might learn from the mercy shown to him that salvation could be obtained. From this verse we may learn:

(1) that no sinner should despair of mercy. No one should say that he is so great a sinner that he cannot be forgiven. One who regarded himself as the “chief” of sinners was pardoned, and pardoned for the very purpose of illustrating this truth, that any sinner might be saved. His example stands as the illustration of this to all ages; and were there no other, any sinner might now come and hope for mercy. But there are other examples. Sinners of all ranks and descriptions have been pardoned. Indeed, there is no form of depravity of which people can be guilty, in respect to which there are not instances where just such offenders have been forgiven. The persecutor may reflect that great enemies of the cross like him have been pardoned; the profane man and the blasphemer, that many such have been forgiven; the murderer, the thief, the sensualist, that many of the same character have found mercy, and have been admitted to heaven.

(2) the fact that great sinners have been pardoned, is a proof that others of the same description may be also. The same mercy that saved them can save us - for mercy is not exhausted by being frequently exercised. The blood of atonement which has cleansed so many can cleanse us - for its efficacy is not destroyed by being once applied to the guilty soul. Let no one then despair of obtaining mercy because he feels that his sins are too great to be forgiven. Let him look to the past, and remember what God has done. Let him remember the case of Saul of Tarsus; let him think of David and Peter; let him recall the names of Augustine, and Colonel Gardiner, and the Earl of Rochester, and John Newton, and John Bunyan - and thousands like them, who have found mercy; and in their examples let him see a full proof that God is willing to save any sinner, no matter how vile, provided he is penitent and believing.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https: 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Timothy 1:16

Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy.

Praise for salvation

The narration of personal experience may be very helpful to those who are wanting instruction or sympathy. Men are better able to grasp truth in the concrete than in the abstract. To see a sinner saved from sin is more helpful than to read of salvation. No one recognized this more clearly, or acted on it more wisely, than Paul; and some of the most instructive parts of his Epistles are those in which he recounts his own religious experience. We may similarly help others, especially our own children, and those who are within the sacred circle of friendship; but the narration of experience may be as harmful as beneficial, if it becomes frequent or formal. There is danger of egotism, till our own personality covers the whole horizon of our thought. There is risk of affected singularity, as if we wished to be distinguished from others and considered superior to them. Referring to himself he says--

I. That salvation came to one most undeserving. “Chief of sinners though I am,” he exclaims, “I obtained mercy,” “that in me,” in the very depths of my nature, in my whole future destiny, Jesus Christ might “show forth all long-suffering.”

II. That his conversion was a pattern for all the future.

III. That such conversion should express itself in praise to God is evident from the noble doxology which follows--“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, incorruptible, invisible, the only (wise) God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Paul was always ready for a song of praise, and could sing as heartily in prison at Philippi as at the prayer-meeting beside its river. It is not often that God is spoken of as “King,” and the expression rendered by our translators “the King eternal,” but more correctly in the margin of the Revised Version “King of the Ages,” is quite peculiar to this verse. What a helpful assurance this is that our God, our Saviour, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the supreme Lord of all the successive ages which stretch from the forgotten past into the infinite future; that He controls all stages of development in the natural realm, in the creation and dissolution of worlds, and in the kingdom of grace! (A. Rowland, LL. B.)

Saul of Tarsus obtaining mercy

I. Let us consider this mercy in reference to himself.

1. In the first place, the mercy which he obtained pardoned all his sins. His sins, numerous and aggravated as they were, instead of being visited with deserved punishment, were all forgiven. The hand of mercy blotted out his iniquities as a cloud, and his transgressions as a thick cloud, so that in his own condition the promise of God to the penitent was fulfilled, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” How complete and efficacious is the pardon which the penitent transgressor never fails to receive when he confesses his iniquities and cries, “Lord, save me, or I perish”!

2. The mercy which he obtained renewed and sanctified his heart and character. By this Divine and sanctifying illumination an entire change was effected in his sentiments, and feelings, and character; and though no new faculties were imparted to his mind, yet the original faculties of his mind received a new impulse and direction. His mind acquired new associations of ideas; new trains of thought and feeling; new views of himself, and of Christ, and of religion in general; so that he began to love what he once hated, and to hate what he once loved, and to declare, as the result of his own experience, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” How warm and constant was his love to Christ, whose mercy he had obtained! “Many waters could not quench it, neither could the floods drown it.” With what tender and earnest compassion did his spirit yearn over those who wilfully rejected the mercy which he had obtained, and which, in his estimation, was infinitely valuable! “Of whom,” says he, “I have told you often, and I now tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction.” How entirely was he devoted to the work in which he was engaged! What steady and unflinching fortitude and magnanimity he manifested, in the midst of all the afflictions and persecutions he endured! “None of these things move me,” said he. And yet what deep humility was associated with all his holy excellencies, and his abundant usefulness! He was “not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.”

II. Consider this same mercy in reference to Jesus Christ. For He was its source and giver, and by Him was this apostle constituted a “vessel of mercy, and a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use.” And if such a character as Paul’s was formed by Christ, what, think you, must be His own character? If Paul was the workmanship of Christ, what, think you, must be the skill, and purity, and power of the heavenly Architect? There was much in the character of Paul that was great, and much in it that was glorious; but every attribute of his greatness and every beam of his glory was derived from Christ.

1. In the first place, the mercy which Jesus Christ exercised towards him was long-suffering mercy. “In me,” says he, “Jesus Christ hath showed forth all long-suffering.” And in him it was indeed shown most evidently and extensively. Why did not flames from heaven descend, and consume him to ashes? Why?--for the same reason that they have not yet fallen upon you. “Because He is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

2. The mercy which Jesus Christ exercised towards him was sovereign mercy. And so far was he from even expecting it, that his thoughts and affections were fully occupied in anticipating the havoc which he intended to make in the church at Damascus. Such was his character up to the very moment when the persecuted Saviour met him in the way. And yet, though he neither deserved this mercy nor desired it, nor expected it, he most abundantly obtained it, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. No reason, I apprehend, can be assigned, by us at least, why he should be converted at all, or why his conversion should take place at that time, and under those circumstances, except “the good pleasure” of the Saviour’s will. “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight.”

3. The mercy which Jesus Christ exercised towards him was efficacious mercy; for it came to him, “not in word only, but in power.” If ever any case of depravity and crime appeared to be invincible and desperate, this was the case.

III. Consider this mercy in reference to ourselves and to sinners in general. The apostle further says in our text, that the mercy which he obtained at his conversion was intended to render him “a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Christ to life everlasting.”

1. In the first place, this pattern shows us that the conversion and salvation of a sinner’s soul is effected by Divine mercy. Yes, throughout the whole work of man’s redemption by the incarnation and sufferings of Christ, and throughout the pardon, and sanctification and spiritual progress of every saved sinner, mercy, sweet mercy reigns. Mercy determined on our salvation in the ages of eternity, and provided a Saviour for us in the fulness of time. Mercy arrests the sinner in his course, and enlightens his mind, and softens his heart and teaches him to pray, and enables him to be faithful even unto death. And mercy opens for him the gates of the celestial city, and conducts him to the throne, and places on his head the crown of everlasting life.

2. In the second place, this pattern shows us the ability and willingness of Christ to show mercy to the greatest sinners, who repent and believe His gospel.

3. This pattern shews what a believer may become through the Saviour’s mercy.(J. Alexander.)

The character and conversion of Saul of Tarsus

Judgment and mercy are to be our songs in the house of our pilgrimage; and judgment and mercy are the chief subjects of God’s Word. In one page of that Word we read of God’s destroying the world with a deluge--in the other, of saving Noah and eight persons in the ark. In one page we read of His giving up the nations of the earth to the basest idolatry--in the other, of His calling Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, and bidding him separate himself in mercy from them. In one page we read of His destroying the cities of the plain, and the inhabitants with them--in the other, of His rescuing Lot and his family lest he should be devoured in the coming devastation. God’s wisdom and love are surprisingly manifest in these portions of Holy Writ, and in thus setting before us judgment and mercy. Some are monuments of His wrath, to alarm, arouse, and convict the impenitent, hardened, and profligate sinner; while others are monuments of His grace, His free mercy, and His sovereign love, to, show how boundless it is in its extent, and to animate penitent sinners to come to the same source from whence these individuals obtained so large a share. The apostle tells us that his conversion was “a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on Christ to life everlasting.” Is there any one supposing that his sins are too peculiar and too aggravated to find mercy? I call upon him now to look at the peculiar case presented, at the specimen of the divine workmanship here brought to his view. It is to be held up as “a pattern,” to show the vast and boundless extent of the grace of God in the conversion of the sinner, and the plenitude of the mercy of Christ in its extending to the utmost bounds of a sinner’s guilt. Those of us who have believed through grace, ought to find our minds refreshed by looking at these patterns which God has set up in His Word.

I. The sinfulness of saul’s life before his conversion.

1. He was a horrid blasphemer. “I verily thought,” he says, “that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth; which things I also did in Jerusalem.” His name was like poison to his very soul; he never spoke of Him but with the most daring impiety; he would never examine the evidences of His mission, never look to the prophecies of olden time, never examine the types which the prophets represent and set forth of the great Messiah who was hereafter to come: but he took it for granted that He was an impostor, and he treated Him as such. He was a man of great learning, and he turned all his learning to despise his Saviour. He insulted Him and His disciples, and as far as lay in him he was determined that the name of Christ should never be known in the world, but as a name of execration fit only for the mouths of swearers and blasphemers. This was his determination.

2. He was a furious persecutor as well as a blasphemer. Whoever professed the name of Jesus Christ was the object of his inveterate rage. But let us trace the gross features in his character as a persecutor, in order to discover the strength of his enmity to Jesus Christ and His disciples.

3. He was not only a furious persecutor, but he was an injurious neighbour. He himself tells us this: “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious “: that is, he never did any real good; that is, he never sought God’s glory, or his fellow creatures’ true happiness: he would not only not enter in himself, but he would not let others enter in. How many widows did this man make! How many orphans did he make! How many hearts did he break! How much poverty did he occasion!

4. There was another point in his character: he was a proud Pharisee. This may appear light to some, but this was the crown of his character, this is the greatness of his guilt; this is (if I may use the expression) his scarlet and his crimson sin--that he went about to set up and establish his own righteousness, not submitting himself to the righteousness of God. “Publicans and harlots,” says our Saviour, “enter into the kingdom of heaven before them.” Now there are many individuals who are similar to Saul. We hear numbers say, “I am not a liar; I am not a drunkard; I pay my way; I live respectably in the world, and endeavour to train up my children respectably; and if I don’t go to heaven, who ought to go?” And where is Christ, and where is the Saviour of sinners? “Yes, but then,” you say, “I know I have done wrong in many things; we are all guilty in some respects: but then I have never been a great sinner, and I do hope that if I do as well as I can, the Lord Jesus Christ will help me, and give me some of His merit that I may die in peace.” Now this, though not uttered in such plain and direct language, is often implied, and is the meaning of thousands of sinners.

II. The free grace of Christ exhibited in his conversion. Perceive how his conversion was effected by Christ. Imagine yourselves in Jerusalem a few minutes, and see Saul just as he is setting out on his journey to Damascus, for the sake of persecuting the poor saints in that city. See him mount his horse; see the numbers around him--what a splendid guard the man has. Look at the Sanhedrim, the chief priests and the great men of his nation coming to him, shaking hands with him, and saying, “God speed your way, and give you the success of your mission”: look how the people are congratulating him all around. See the poor saints trembling. “Now,” they say, “I fear for the safety of my sister, who has gone to Damascus. Now is my dear friend who lives in that city about to be butchered by this furious tyrant.” See the people all running to John Mark’s house, to engage in prayer, and bring down the blessing of heaven, that this man be stopped in his persecution; and going home to write letters, to prevent, if possible, the danger to which some of their friends and relations will be subject by this man’s arrival. Never man thought himself more secure; never man thought he was going on a more virtuous embassy; and he had pretty nearly reached Damascus, he was within sight of the gates; and just as he was going forward, and some of the saints perhaps looking out of the windows, seeing him advancing, and trembling for fear of his entry--just as he approached the gate, the Lord Jesus Christ opened a window in heaven, and let one single ray of His glory fall down from heaven upon him. This was the manner of his conversion; now let us see what effect did his conversion produce? What effect did it produce on the spot? It turned proud Saul into humble Paul: he that was raging with madness against the disciples, was now trembling and astonished for himself. See what it did for him the three days afterwards. The light that came from heaven had taken away his natural sight, but how it had illuminated his mind. How great his anguish now he saw his past life! Oh, the grace that could soften such a heart, melt such a mind! But see what his conversion did for him in after days. And here mark, there was not only grace to make him a Christian, but there was grace to make him a minister: he was not only taken from the world as the Church are, but he was taken from the Church as Aaron was, and made a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. And now let us see him in his ministry. What was the subject of it? “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” And he went and preached boldly before kings, and rulers, and magistrates, and assemblies of different classes, the glories of his Saviour, and the triumphs of His grace. Oh, the labours of this man! Oh, the prayers of this man! Oh, the zeal of this man! Oh, the melting pity of this man over lost souls! Oh, the subjugating power of Divine grace, and the influence of Divine love!

III. The design of christ in his conversion. I know not which to admire most, the sovereignty and grace of Christ in converting him, or the sovereignty and grace of Christ in exhibiting his conversion as a pattern to others, as an example from which they might take encouragement as long as time should last.

1. Here is the pattern of the infinite merit of Christ’s death. The atonement of Christ reaches back to the first sin, and extends itself to the last: “He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” “He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.”

2. The unquestionable willingness of Christ’s heart.

3. You here see the great design of Christ’s gospel. Why is the gospel published? This is the pattern. To show you the great design of Christ’s gospel--that is to encourage the souls of sinners to come to Him and be saved.

4. Again: look here and see the pattern of the renovating power of Christ’s grace. Oh, how it changes the hearts and lives of sinners! In one of my village stations, a little time ago, I looked in at a cottage, and inquired of a poor woman there how things were going with herself and family. She said, “Oh, sir, I have more reason to bless God for the gospel than I can tell you. When we first came to this cottage, both my husband and myself were drunkards, our children were but barely clothed, and everything we had in the world was marked by the extremest poverty and misery; but now, instead of that, the Lord laid hold of my husband’s heart first, then He was pleased to convert me by the preaching at the place of worship; and now the children are blessed, and I am blessed, and we are all happy together.” And now you will see her one of the most respectable women in the village, with a little money in the savings’ bank: on the Sunday all the children are catechised, and the husband delights to read and pray with his wife and children. Is not this an exhibition of the renovating power of Christ’s grace? And this is not a solitary instance: you yourselves know instances like this in the neighbourhoods wherein you reside, where Christ’s renovating power has been manifested. You are to look at this for a pattern if you are ever downcast for any individual. Here see what the power of Christ’s grace can do. In the first place, corruption has a power over the individual, and makes him a blasphemer, a persecutor, injurious, and a Pharisee: and now the grace that has renovated his heart makes him a humble seeker of the Saviour, a zealous disciple of Christ, an anxious neighbour, desirous of the good of others, and pondering the way to heaven, and walking in it. (J. Sherman.)

Salvation for the chief of sinners

I. The fact which is here asserted by St. Paul. “I obtained mercy.”

II. The use which St. Paul makes of this great fact in his history. St. Paul speaks here of his conversion, not only in its reference to himself, but also in its reference to others. Perhaps more than any person that ever lived St. Paul lived for others; perhaps more than any person that ever lived St. Paul was the most useful to others. It was a great fact for himself; it brought Salvation to his soul, and he rejoiced in God for it. But it was a great fact for the world. Two things are especially, I think, to be noted in St. Paul’s conversion. The one is its distinctness--it was a very marked conversion. His life was very decided before it and very decided after it. He was a prominent character, a well-known man, and it was a very distinct and a very decided conversion; but it is not upon that which he dwells in our text. There was another thing to be noted about the conversion of St. Paul, that it afforded a very wonderful exhibition and illustration of the long-suffering of Jesus Christ. The other apostles had been called by the Lord Jesus-Christ to serve and follow Him from a life of innocence, comparatively speaking, at all events from a life that was void of any opposition to Him. (E. Bayley, M. A.)

Paul an example of mercy

I. The improbability of Paul’s obtaining mercy. “Howbeit, I obtained mercy.”

II. The mercy which, notwithstanding the improbability of the case, Paul did receive.

1. It was sovereign in its source. Whence did it spring? Through what medium did it flow? Human merit could have nothing to do in the gift of mercy to the chief of sinners. Mercy always excludes merit, and most evidently so in the instance before us.

2. It was great in its degree. We estimate the greatness of mercy by the guilt of the offender, and by the effects it produces.

3. It was boundless in its blessings. Hear the elevated sentiment of this apostle, writing to the Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”; blessings of the best kind; blessings adapted to the nature and necessities of the soul; blessings that are from heaven, that lead to heaven, that bring us into intimate connection with heavenly realities, and that are durable as their eternal enjoyment. It is the observation of a late author, Though God is sovereign in the bestowment of mercy, He is not niggardly. He goes beyond the humbled sinner’s highest expectation. Where he looked for a single drop, there descends the copious shower. Where he hoped to receive the alms of one mite, he finds the collected treasures of a thousand ages, the great mountain of solid gold.

III. The DESIGN of its bestowment.

1. It was to illustrate Divine long-suffering.

2. It was to promote human encouragement. We here behold its majesty, its energy, and its triumph. (T. Kidd.)

On patterns in religion

Some men speak only of a salvation which they have heard of from others. Some teach others a salvation which they have experienced themselves. Paul was the chief of these. This personal element runs through all his writings. The stream of his teaching sprang at first, and still springs, from the fountain depths of his own soul, and it was, therefore, a living stream, like the river in Ezekiel’s prophecy, which deepened as it flowed and healed wherever its waters descended. God had fulfilled to him the words, “The water that I shall give him shall be within him a fountain of water springing up to everlasting life.” The point which comes before us to-day is this--his salvation ended not in himself, it was a pattern to encourage all other sinners to trust in the like forgiving mercy. We are very dependent on fashions and patterns in all parts of our life, to assist our labours, to stimulate our energies, to encourage our hopes. Examples act upon us more powerfully than arguments. Happy the Church which can say to all around, not only “Believe the Gospel,” but “See what it has done for us!--that it has given us peace with God, a new and nobler life within, of thought, of design, of love, of hope, of action. Come with us, and we will do you good.” The best recommendation of a remedy, and of teaching, is its visible effect on ourselves. Let us see, by looking more closely into the history of St. Paul, how remarkably he was a typical pattern of salvation by Christ in all its stages and developments from first to last.

I. In his call. This was a supernatural and gracious work of God, brought about by an act above and beyond all ordinary moral laws. The act of placing saving truth before us as a heavenly vision is always the act of God alone, in His providence and grace. It is the result of a purpose of God, a call. Men do not discover truth savingly by mere study or experiment, as they find out the secrets of nature. Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. It is the Spirit who says to Philip on behalf of the Treasurer, “Draw nigh to this chariot,” and opens to him the book of Esaias the prophet. If you have been visited with a view of the reality of Jesus Christ as your Saviour, this has been the act of God. “Of Him are all things.” So it was with Saul of Tarsus.

II. Paul’s life is a pattern of arbitrary and sovereign selection to special spiritual advantages and special appointments--the result of an everlasting purpose of God. He is a chosen vessel to Me to bear My name before kings and peoples--a splendidly embossed golden vase in which sweet odours of truth shall be burned before all nations. The world is full of such special and individual destinations that can be traced to no other source than the special will of God. Thus, too, some nations, as Israel of old, and now the Saxon race. Yet this Divine predestination is quite consistent with man’s ultimate freedom. The predestinations of God do not enslave, but liberate and energize the will of man. “He worketh in us--to will.” The will is ours, the inspiration is God’s. “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” But the special vocations of God’s servants are not for their own private and personal behoof. They look toward the profit of many, that they may be saved. If Paul is the chosen vessel, it is that he may “preach the Gospel to every creature.” “To make all men see the fellowship of the mystery.”

III. St. Paul was a pattern in his pardon. “In him first Jesus Christ showed forth all long-suffering,” to encourage others, though vile as he, to wash in the same life-giving fountain. We need other and nearer patterns. And they abound around us. Would that some whose experience is large and exact, and who have seen into the secret of the salvation of many different kinds of souls, would write for us a variety of biographies to serve as encouraging patterns, suited to modern contemporary society. It seems useless to tell the modern young man, whose form of alienation from God, his heavenly Father, is not that of a cruel persecutor, that he may take courage to trust in the mercy of God from the example of St. Paul. It does not touch him. A pattern of modem spiritual life that sprang out of a modern callousness and love of trifling amusements, just like his own, is what he requires. Tell them of such “patterns” as these, and they prove very helpful. God reveals Himself in many ways in nature, and Christ reveals Himself in many ways in the spiritual providence--not by books only, much less by sermons only--but by lives, somewhat akin to our own, and likely to move and touch and animate us by their example in kindred spheres of action. And so with women, and young women. The “patterns” which are likely to affect them, in a way to draw them to Christ, in closer love, are not those set before us in “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs,” where men had to burn at Smithfield for denying transubstantiation, at the behests of Mary Tudor and her bishops. They must be drawn from nearer home and from our own day. And such “patterns” of loving and noble lives, inspired with tender compassion, and industrious obedience, and diligent zeal in home duties are so numerous nowadays that a girl must live in a very heathenish circle if she knows of none which can help her to serve her Saviour. Let us not be so blind as to see no transfigurations of character except in the dead. There are around us not a few who shine already in the garments of immortality; who can be depended on for truth, for gentleness, for industry, for serious tenderness, and for active sympathy; and whose uplifted faces already gleam with the reflected light of that city of the living God to which they are moving upwards. But when all is said of the helpfulness of patterns of salvation in aiding us to believe and love the Lord, it remains true that earthly lives are but patterns of things in the heavens, and not “the very image of the things.” They serve but as the shadows of the heavenly realities. They are but prophecies of a more glorious dawn. For the end is not yet, and when that which is perfect is come, that which is imperfect shall be done away. “Then shall I be satisfied when I wake up in Thy likeness.” (E. White.)

Paul’s conversion a pattern

I. In the conversion of Paul the Lord had an eye to others, The fact of his conversion and the mode of it--

1. Would tend to interest and convince other Pharisees and Jews.

2. Would be used by himself in his preaching as an argument to convert and encourage others.

3. Would encourage Paul as a preacher to hope for others.

4. Would become a powerful argument with him for seeking others.

5. Would, long after Paul’s death, remain on record to be the means of bringing many to Jesus.

II. In his entire life Paul speaks to others.

1. In sin. His conversion proves that Jesus receives great sinners.

2. In grace. He proved the power of God to sanctify and preserve.

III. In his whole case he presents a cartoon of others.

1. As to God’s longsuffering to him. In his case longsuffering was carried to its highest pitch. Longsuffering so great that all the patience of God seemed to be revealed in his one instance. Longsuffering which displayed itself in many ways, so as to let him live when persecuting saints; to allow him the possibility of pardon; to call him effectually by grace; to give him fulness of personal blessing; to put him into the ministry and send him to the Gentiles; to keep and support him even unto the end.

2. As to the mode of his conversion. He was saved remarkably, but others will be seen to be saved in like manner if we look below the surface of things. Saved without previous preparation on his own part; saved at once out of darkness and death; saved by Divine power alone; saved by faith wrought in him by God’s own Spirit; saved distinctly, and beyond all doubt. Are we not also saved in precisely the same way? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Divine mercy unlimited

John Newton, speaking of the sudden death of Robinson, of Cambridge, in the house of Dr. Priestly, said: “I think Dr. Priestly is out of the reach of human conviction; but the Lord can convince him. And who can tell but this unexpected stroke may make some salutary impression upon his mind? I can set no limits to the mercy or the power of our Lord, and therefore I continue to pray for him. I am persuaded he is not farther from the truth now than I was once.” (S. Charnock.)

Encouragement from the case of St. Paul

I have heard it said of the elephant, that sometimes before he crosses a bridge he puts his trunk, and perhaps one foot, upon it; he wants to know if it is quite safe, for he is not going to trust his bulky body to things that were built only for horses and men. Well, after he has tried it, if he finds it strong enough, away he goes, and his great carcase is carried right across the stream. Now, suppose you and I sat on the other side, and said we were afraid the bridge would not bear us! Why, how absurd our unbelief would be. So when you see a great elephantine sinner, like the apostle Paul, go lumbering over the bridge of mercy, and not a timber creaks, and the bridge does not even strain under the load, why, then methinks, you may come rushing in a crowd, and say, “It will bear us if it will bear him; it will carry us across, if it can take the chief of sinners to heaven!” ( C. H. Spurgeon.)

John Newton’s conversion

I have never doubted the power of God to convert the heathen world since He converted me. (J. Newton.)

An encouraging reflection

It is no small encouragement to a sick man, to hear of some that have been cured of the same disease as his own, and that in a higher degree of prevalence. (J. Flavel.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Timothy 1:16". The Biblical Illustrator. https: 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life.

Paul's argument here is that by pardoning the chief of the band of brigands, Jesus Christ had, by implication, extended an invitation to receive forgiveness to all the lesser sinners who made up the company!

For an ensample ... That the blessed apostle does not here overestimate the significance of his conversion is discernible throughout history. Paul's conversion, along with the resurrection of Christ, is part of the incontrovertible evidence of the integrity and authenticity of the Christian faith.

Believe on him unto eternal life ... This strongly suggests Romans 10:10,11; and significantly "believing on" Christ in both passages is "unto" eternal life, and salvation, as is ever the case in the New Testament. The sacred writers were diligent never to leave an impression that merely "believing on" the Lord Jesus Christ surely led to eternal life, but merely in the direction of it, "unto life." The apostle John gave the classical example of a case in which it did not bestow eternal life (John 12:42,43); but in even that instance "believing on" the Lord led in the direction of it.

Eternal life ... Christianity is involved with the supernatural, a fact abundantly clear in such an expression as this. The grand scope and purpose of Christianity is to accomplish the forgiveness of people's sins (salvation), and in the upper and better world usher them into eternal and better life where they may have in utmost joy and tranquillity, fellowship with the Creator forever.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https: Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy,.... Though so great a sinner, and even the chief of sinners:

that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering; not that the apostle was the first that was converted upon Christ's coming to save sinners; for there were many converted before him, and very great sinners too, and he speaks of himself as one born out of due time; unless it can be thought that he was the first of the persecutors of the church, upon the death of Stephen, that was converted: but the word "first" is not an "adverb" of time, but a "noun" expressing the character of the apostle, as before; and the sense is, that in him, the first or chief of sinners, Jesus Christ exhibited an instance of his abundant longsuffering exercised towards his elect for their salvation; he waiting in the midst of all their sins and rebellions to be gracious to them; and of this, here was a full proof in the Apostle Paul: what longsuffering and patience were showed, while he held the clothes of them that stoned Stephen, when he made havoc and haled men and women to prison, and persecuted them to death? and this was done,

for a pattern to them that should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting; either to those of his fellow persecutors, or of others in that age, who should be made sensible of their sins, and by this instance and example of grace be encouraged to believe in Christ for life and salvation; or to all awakened and convinced sinners then, and in every age, who from hence may conceive hope of salvation in Christ for themselves, though ever so great sinners; since such patience and longsuffering were exercised towards, and such grace bestowed upon, one that had been a sinner of the first rank and size, yea, the chief of sinners: in him was delineated the grace of God, and in his conversion it was painted in its most lively colours; and a just representation is given of it, for the encouragement of the faith and hope of others in Christ. Christ is here represented as the object of faith; and true faith regards him, looks unto him, and deals with him for eternal life and salvation. Our countryman, Mr. Mede, thinks that the sense is, that the conversion of the Apostle Paul was a pattern of the conversion of the Jews in the latter day; and his thought seems to be a very good one: the apostle's conversion is a pledge and earnest of theirs, and showed that God had not cast away all that people; and carries in it some likeness and agreement with theirs: as his, theirs will be in the midst of all their blindness and unbelief; and when they have filled up the measure of their sins; and they will be a nation born at once, suddenly, and by the immediate power and grace of God, without the ministry of the word, which they will not hear: thus they will be converted as he was, and become as hearty lovers and friends of the Gentile churches.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https: 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

HowbeitGreek, “But”; contrasting his own conscious sinfulness with God‘s gracious visitation of him in mercy.

for this cause — for this very purpose.

that in me — in my case.

first — “foremost.” As I was “foremost” (Greek for chief, 1 Timothy 1:15) in sin, so God has made me the “foremost” sample of mercy.

show — to His own glory (the middle Greek, voice), Ephesians 2:7.

all long-sufferingGreek, “the whole (of His) long-suffering,” namely, in bearing so long with me while I was a persecutor.

a pattern — a sample (1 Corinthians 10:6, 1 Corinthians 10:11) to assure the greatest sinners of the certainty that they shall not be rejected in coming to Christ, since even Saul found mercy. So David made his own case of pardon, notwithstanding the greatness of his sin, a sample to encourage other sinners to seek pardon (Psalm 32:5, Psalm 32:6). The Greek for “pattern” is sometimes used for a “sketch” or outline - the filling up to take place in each man‘s own case.

believe on him — Belief rests ON Him as the only foundation on which faith relies.

to life everlasting — the ultimate aim which faith always keeps in view (Titus 1:2).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https: 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

In me as chief (εν εμοι πρωτωιen emoi prōtōi). Probably starts with the same sense of πρωτοςprōtos as in 1 Timothy 1:15 (rank), but turns to order (first in line). Paul becomes the “specimen” sinner as an encouragement to all who come after him.

Might shew forth (ενδειχηταιendeixētai). First aorist middle subjunctive (purpose with ιναhina) of ενδεικνυμιendeiknumi to point out, for which see note on Ephesians 2:7 (same form with ιναhina).

Longsuffering (μακροτυμιανmakrothumian). Common Pauline word (2 Corinthians 6:6).

For an ensample (προς υποτυπωσινpros hupotupōsin). Late and rare word (in Galen, Sext. Emp., Diog. Laert., here only in N.T.) from late verb υποτυποωhupotupoō (in papyri) to outline. So substantive here is a sketch, rough outline. Paul is a sample of the kind of sinners that Jesus came to save. See υποδειγμαhupodeigma in 2 Peter 2:6.

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https: Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

First ( πρώτῳ )

Not the chief sinner, but the representative instance of God's longsuffering applied to a high-handed transgressor. It is explained by pattern.

All longsuffering ( τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν )

More correctly, “all his longsuffering.” The A.V. misses the possessive force of the article. For longsuffering see on be patient, James 5:7. The form ἅπας occurs as an undisputed reading only once in Paul, Ephesians 6:13, and not there as an adjective. Often in Acts and Luke. This use of the article with the adjective πᾶς or ἅπας is without parallel in Paul.

Pattern ( ὑποτύπωσιν )

Or, ensample. Only here and 2 Timothy 1:13. olxx. oClass. An example of the writer's fondness for high-sounding compounds. Paul uses τύπος .

To them

The A.V. conveys the sense more clearly than Rev. “of them,” which is ambiguous. The genitive has a possessive sense. He would be their ensample, or an ensample for their benefit.

Believe ( πιστευ.ειν )

This verb, so frequent in Paul, occurs six times in the pastorals. In two instances, 1 Timothy 1:11; Titus 1:3, it is passive, in the sense of to be intrusted with. Here in the Pauline sense of believing on Christ. In 1 Timothy 3:16, passive, of Christ believed on in the world. In 2 Timothy 1:12, of God the Father, in whom the writer confides to keep the trust committed to him. In Titus 3:8, of belief in God. With ἐπὶ uponand the dative, Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6(all citations), and Romans 4:18; Luke 24:25.

Unto life everlasting ( εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον )

Better, eternal life. See additional not on 2 Thessalonians 1:9. The conception of life eternal is not limited to the future life (as von Soden). Godliness has promise of the life which now is, as well as of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8). The promise of eternal life (2 Timothy 1:1) and the words who brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10) may fairly be taken to cover the present life.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https: Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

For this cause God showed me mercy, that all his longsuffering might be shown, and that none might hereafter despair.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https: 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

For a pattern to them; for an example to them,--that is, an example of the long-suffering of Christ, that future sinners might not be discouraged from coming to him.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https: 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

16That in me the first Jesus Christ might shew When he calls himself the first, he alludes to what he had said a little before, that he was the first (26) among sinners and, therefore, this word means “chiefly,” or, “above all.” The Apostle’s meaning is, that, from the very beginning, God held out such a pattern as might be visible from a conspicuous and lofty platform, that no one might doubt that he would obtain pardon, provided that he approached to Christ by faith. And, indeed, the distrust entertained by all of us is counteracted, when we thus behold in Paul a visible model of that grace which we desire to see.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https: 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

Ver. 16. Might show forth] By full demonstration and sufficient evidence, ενδειξηται, so that all might see and say, There is mercy with Christ that he may be feared, yea, mercy rejoicing against judgment, that he may be everlastingly admired and adored.

For a pattern to them, &c.] Therefore the apostle was assured of remission in an ordinary way, and not by any special revelation.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https: 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Note here, That God is pleased some times to magnify his mercy in the conversion and salvation of the most notorious sinners, that so the greatest of sinners may take encouragement from thence to hope and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ for pardoning mercy; thus here, this great blasphemer and persecutor was received to mercy, for a pattern and example to all such sinners as should hereafter forsake their evil and wicked ways, and give up themselves sincerely to the obedience of the gospel; For this cause I obtained mercy.

Such a conspicuous example of Christ's clemency and grace towards so great a sinner, whom he not only pardoned, but preferred to the dignity of an apostle, and sent forth to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, would be a strong motive to the Gentiles to receive the gospel with faith and obedience: there could be no reason for any of them to despair of mercy, when they saw such a pattern, such an illustrious instance of pardoning mercy before their eyes: In me first Jesus Christ showed forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https: 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

16.] howbeit (as E. V.: “not resumptive, but as in 1 Timothy 1:13, seclusive and antithetical, marking the contrast between the Apostle’s own judgment on himself, and the mercy which God was pleased to shew him.” Ellic.) for this purpose I had mercy shewn me, that in me (as an example; “in my case:” see reff. and cf. εἰς ὑποτύπωσιν below) first (it can hardly be denied that in πρώτῳ here the senses of ‘chief’ and ‘first’ are combined. This latter seems to be necessitated by μελλόντων below. Though he was not in time ‘the first of sinners,’ yet he was the first as well as the most notable example of such marked long-suffering, held up for the encouragement of the church) Christ Jesus might shew forth (dynamic middle: see note on ref. Eph., and Ellicott there) the whole of His (not merely ‘all’ (all possible, πᾶσαν): nor ‘all His’ (Conyb., Ellic.: πᾶσαν τὴν …), but ‘the whole,’ ‘the whole mass of μακροθυμία, of which I was an example; ὁ ἅπας seems to be found here only. If the rec. reading be in question, in all other cases where ὁ πᾶς occurs with a substantive in the N. T., it is one which admits of partition, and may therefore be rendered by ‘all the ‘or ‘the whole:’ e.g. Acts 20:18, πῶς μεθʼ ὑμῶν τὸν πάντα χρόνον ἐγενόμην: see also ref. Wetst. has two examples from Polyb. in which ὁ πᾶς has the meaning of ‘the utmost:’ τῆς πάσης ἀλογιστίας ἐστὶ σημεῖον,—and τῆς ἁπάσης (as here) ἀτοπίας εἶναι σημεῖον) long-suffering (not, generosity, magnanimity: nor is the idea of long-suffering here irrelevant, as some have said: Christ’s mercy gave him all that time for repentance, during which he was persecuting and opposing Him,—and therefore it was his long-suffering which was so wonderful), for an example (cf. 2 Peter 2:6, ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβεῖν τεθεικώς. Wetst. has shewn by very copious extracts, that ὑποτύπωσις is used by later writers, beginning with Aristotle, for a sketch, an outline, afterwards to be filled up. This indeed the recorded history of Paul would be,—the filling up taking place in each man’s own case: see ref. 2 Tim., note. Or the meaning ‘sample,’ ‘ensample,’ as in 2 Timothy 1:13, will suit equally well) of (to, see Ellicott’s note, and Donaldson, Gr. Gr. § 450) those who should (the time of μελλόντων is not the time of writing the Epistles, but that of the mercy being shewn: so that we must not say “who shall,” but “who should”) believe on Him (the unusual ἐπʼ αὐτῷ is easily accounted for, from its occurrence in so very common a quotation as πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται, see reff. The propriety of the expression here is, that it gives more emphatically the ground of the πιστεύειν—brings out more the reliance implied in it—almost q. d., ‘to rely on Him for eternal life.’ Ellicott has, in his note here, given a full and good classification of the constructions of πιστεύω in the N. T.) to (belongs to πιστεύειν (see above) as its aim and end (cf. Hebrews 10:39): not to ὑποτύπωσιν, as Bengel suggests) life eternal:

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https: 1863-1878.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



1 Timothy 1:16. For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

THE first question that should occur to our minds, is this, Have I obtained mercy? If a favourable answer can be returned to that, we should inquire, In what manner, and for what ends, mercy has been shewn us? There can be no doubt, but that if persons who are converted to God would frequently look back upon the state in which they were previous to their conversion, they would find the retrospect attended with the most beneficial consequences. Their recollection would furnish them with innumerable facts, which would tend to humble them in the dust, and to excite adoring thoughts of that grace which has so distinguished them. St. Paul appears to have taken peculiar pleasure in this exercise of mind. He embraces every opportunity to speak of his former hostility to Christ, in order to exalt to the uttermost the honour of that God, by whom he had been elected, redeemed, and sanctified. In the preceding verses he had expatiated on this painful subject: and now he improves it for the benefit of others.

In discoursing on his words, we shall notice,

I. The circumstances under which the Apostle obtained mercy—

If St. Paul had more to boast of than any, on account of his birth, his education, his strictness, and his zeal, he had also more to be humbled for than almost any other person. For consider,

1. His ignorance of himself—

[He had been educated under the most celebrated teacher of his day, Gamaliel; and had made a proficiency beyond any of his age. Yet, skilled as he was in Rabbinical learning, he was wholly ignorant of his own state and character. He knew not that he was a condemned sinner, He knew not the spirituality and extent of the law. He had no idea, that it required perfect unsinning obedience, and consigned men over to perdition for one single offence, whether in thought, word, or deed. Through his ignorance of the law, he imagined himself to be “alive,” and entitled to everlasting life [Note: Romans 7:9.]. He moreover judged that he was practising all the moral duties, while he was destitute of almost every just sentiment, or proper feeling. Instead of being humbled as a sinner in dust and ashes, he was lifted up with pride and self-conceit. Instead of being animated with love, and pity, and compassion, he was inflamed with a fiery and wrathful zeal. “He knew not at all what spirit he was of.” In short, he was the very reverse of what he afterwards became.]

2. His enmity against Christ—

[He might have had many opportunities of seeing and hearing Christ, on a supposition he bad chosen to embrace them. But, like proud and ignorant bigots of later ages, he would not condescend to hear one who was so generally despised. He probably believed all the scandalous reports that were circulated respecting Jesus, and therefore thought him unworthy of his attention. From the prophecies indeed he could not but know that the promised Messiah was to appear about that time: but having imbibed the prejudices of his countrymen respecting a temporal Messiah, he concluded that Jesus was an impostor; and no doubt rejoiced when the influence of that deceiver (as he thought him) was terminated by his death. But when the doctrines of the Gospel were propagated with such success by the Apostles, then his disappointment appeared, and he broke forth into the fiercest rage against Christ. He determined to extirpate his followers, and to blot out, if possible, the very remembrance of his name. Such was his opinion of Christ, that “he thought he ought to do every thing in his power contrary to his name [Note: Acts 26:9.],” and adverse to his cause. Nor can we doubt, but that if Jesus had put himself again in the power of the Jews, Paul would have been among the first to apprehend and destroy him. None would have been found more ready than he to nail him to the cross, or to pierce his heart with the spear.]

3. His cruelty to his fellow-creatures—

[He was present at the stoning of the first martyr, Stephen. He heard the discourse of that holy man; he saw “his face shining like the face of an angel:” he heard him with his dying breath praying for his murderers; but was unconvinced, unrelenting, unmoved. One would have thought that a young man (whose feelings are quick), and a man pretending to morality, should have felt some pity towards one, whose whole appearance was so devout and holy: and that, when the first stone made the blood to gush out, he should have turned away with disgust and horror. But no such effect was produced on him. On the contrary, he feasted his eyes with this bloody spectacle; and testified his consent to the murderous deed, by holding the garments of the murderers, and giving in his looks very evident tokens of his approbation [Note: Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1; Acts 22:19-20.]. Having thus tasted of human blood, he thirsted for it, and, like a blood-hound, would be satisfied with nothing else. He volunteered his services in hunting down the victims of his rage [Note: Acts 9:2.]. He obtained authority from the chief priests; and in the exercise of it, not only drove the Christians from Jerusalem, but followed them to foreign cities, where he had no jurisdiction [Note: Acts 26:10-11.]. He shewed no pity even to helpless females; but dragged all, men and women, to prison [Note: Acts 8:3; Acts 22:4-5.], and gave his voice against them that they should be put to death [Note: Acts 26:10.]. He suffered none to escape, on any other condition than that of blaspheming the name of Jesus [Note: Acts 26:11.]; and thus, while he inflicted on some the pains of martyrdom, he consigned others over to the damnation of hell. From his own description of himself, he more resembled an incarnate fiend than a human being [Note: Acts 9:1. Galatians 1:13 and 1 Timothy 1:13.].]

So strange were the circumstances under which this fiery bigot obtained mercy, that we are peculiarly concerned to inquire into,

II. The ends for which mercy was vouchsafed to him—

Doubtless many blessed ends were answered. But, without attempting to enumerate them, we shall notice those only that are specified in the text. It was,

1. For “the manifesting of Christ’s patience and long-suffering”—

[The long-suffering of Christ appears in the forbearance he exercises towards mankind at large. It was eminently conspicuous in his conduct towards the antediluvian world, whose wickedness he endured for the space of a hundred and twenty years [Note: 1 Peter 3:20.]. It was wonderfully displayed also in not executing the most signal vengeance on his cruel adversary, and setting him forth as a distinguished monument of his wrath and indignation. But how truly wonderful does it appear, when we see him stopping this blood-thirsty persecutor in the midst of his career, and revealing his pardoning love and mercy to his soul! To take such a viper to his bosom! to make such a creature “an elect vessel,” an eminent saint, a distinguished Apostle! to exalt such an one to the most honourable service on earth, and the highest throne in glory! how does this love surpass all knowledge and all conception! How is Jesus now glorified in him! and how must he be admired in him for ever, both in the Church militant, and the Church triumphant [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:10.]!

This then was one principal end of so marvellous a conversion, namely, that the exceeding riches of the Redeemer’s grace might be displayed before the whole universe, both in time and eternity.]

2. For the encouraging of sinners to believe in him—

[It is not uncommon for persons to apprehend themselves so vile that they cannot be forgiven. But our blessed Lord has given a most effectual antidote to this in the conversion of Paul. It is not without reason that Paul repeatedly styles himself “the chief of sinners [Note: ἐμοὶ πρώτῳ should have been so translated in the text, as it is in the verse before it.]:” and he expressly tells us, that he was designed to be a “pattern to all who should hereafter believe on Jesus.” Our adorable Saviour points, as it were, to him, and says; ‘See, thou tempted soul, if thou art as blind as that infuriated bigot, I can make “the scales to fall from thine eyes [Note: Acts 9:18.]:” if thine enmity against me be as rooted as his, I can slay it: if thou possessest all that is malignant and diabolical, I can change thee: there is nothing too great for me to do, nothing too good for me to give, even to the chief of sinners. I am the same gracious and almighty Saviour that I was in the day that I converted him; and I am able and willing to do the very same things for thee. Thou seest how freely I bestowed my grace on him. If wrath and malice, and murder and blasphemy, could entitle him to my favour, then certainly he had as good a title as man could have: but if these things rather entitled him to a distinguished place in hell, then thou seest how free and sovereign my grace is; and hast a proof, that “where sin has abounded, grace can, and shall, much more abound [Note: Romans 5:20.].” ’

Who, after beholding this pattern, can despond? Who will put away mercy from him under the idea that he is unworthy of it? Who will be afraid to come to Jesus, because he has no good work to bring as a price of his favour? None that reflect on the salvation of Paul, can ever doubt either the freeness of Christ’s offers, or the sufficiency of his grace.]

There are two things which, on account of their singular importance, we will further endeavour to impress upon your minds:

1. No good that can be possessed will supersede our need of mercy—

[Paul, as has been hinted at before, bad much to boast of [Note: Philippians 3:4-6.]: but, notwithstanding all his learning, and strictness, and zeal, he had perished for ever, if he had not “obtained mercy.” Let all consider this; and, renouncing all dependence on themselves, trust in Christ alone, and seek “life everlasting” solely “by believing in him” — — —]

2. No evil that can have been committed, shall exclude us from mercy, if we believe on Christ—

[This is the grand scope of the text, and of the discourse upon it. But it never can be repeated too often, or impressed too earnestly on the heart and conscience. It is uniformly attested by all the inspired writers [Note: Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 55:7 and Acts 13:39.]. May God help us to believe the record; and cause us all to experience its truth! If our guilt have been as extraordinary as Paul’s, it may, for ought we know, have been permitted, on purpose that, like him, we may be extraordinary monuments of grace. At all events, we may urge it as a plea with God, that he will be transcendently glorified in our salvation [Note: Psalms 25:11.].]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https: 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Timothy 1:16. After calling himself the first of sinners, Paul gives the reason why he, this foremost sinner, found grace. He begins with ἀλλά, since it must appear strange that grace was imparted to him.

διὰ τοῦτο ἠλεήθην] De Wette says: “therefor (to this end) did I receive grace.”

ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ πρώτῳ ἐνδείξηται χρ. . τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν.

ἐν ἐμ. πρ.] stands first for the sake of emphasis; ἐν is not equivalent to “by means of,” but to “in the case of” (comp. Romans 7:19). To supply ἁμαρτωλῷ with πρώτῳ (first ed. of this commentary, Wiesinger, van Oosterzee, and others) is arbitrary. There is no need to supply anything. The thought is: “in my case, Christ first showed His entire μακροθυμία.”(69) Paul says this, meaning that the entire fulness of Christ’s μακροθυμία (Buttmann, p. 105) could not be shown to those who before had received grace, because they had not cherished such decided enmity to Christ as he. The πρώτῳ therefore has ἅπασαν corresponding with it; the greater the guilt, the greater the manifestation of μακροθυμία. Bengel says: “cunctam longanimitatem: quum minores peccatores etiam mensura quasi minor possit restituere.” It is not necessary to give the word μακροθυμία the meaning here of “magnanimity” (Heydenreich, Matthies: “long-suffering or magnanimity”). The apostle here regards the love of the Lord as not causing judgment to follow straight on condemnation, but as patient, and granting space for conversion. In this Paul has given the purpose of his pardon; but he states it still more definitely in the words that follow: πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν τῶν μελλόντων πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ. The expression ὑποτύπωσις, “likeness, image,” occurs elsewhere only in 2 Timothy 1:13; it is synonymous with ὑπόδειγμα in 2 Peter 2:6, and other passages. Elsewhere in the Pauline Epistles we find τύπος (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Philippians 3:17). Leo, without sufficient grounds, explains the word by institutio. The idea of type is not contained in the word itself, but is here transferred to it from the μελλόντων.

πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ] This construction of the word πιστεύειν is found in the N. T. only here and in Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11, 1 Peter 2:6; but in all these passages it occurs in words quoted from Isaiah 28:16, where the LXX. has simply πιστεύων. It may be explained in this way, that faith has confidence as its substance and basis. Matthies rightly says: “ ἐπʼ αὐτῷ, not so much in Him as the object of faith, but rather trusting in faith on Him as the absolute basis of our salvation.”

εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον] These words are not to be joined to the distant ὑποτύπωσιν (Bengel), but to the πιστεύειν immediately preceding. They present the goal towards which the πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ is directed (Wiesinger). As Paul usually sets forth his conduct to others as a type, so here he gives to his experience a typical meaning for future believers.(70) This may he explained from the peculiar and important position which he held for the development of God’s kingdom on earth, and of which he was distinctly conscious.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https: 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 Timothy 1:16. (12) ἀλλὰ, but) Although I am the first (foremost and chief) of sinners.— διὰ τοῦτο) for this very cause.— τὴν πᾶσαν μακροθυμίαν) all long-suffering; whereas even a less proportion (of long-suffering), so to speak, may restore such as are not so great sinners; comp. Exodus 33:19, that expression כל טובי, all the goodness of the Lord, in respect of a people exceedingly guilty.— πρὸς ὑποτύτωσιν, for a pattern) that others might so ὑποτυποῦσθαι, be conformed to the pattern, or might revolve it in their mind, and make it the subject of their serious consideration. If you believe, as Paul did, you will be saved as Paul was. [In like manner, David also desired to be an example, Psalms 32:6.—V. g.] The same word occurs, 2 Timothy 1:13.— ἐπʼ αὐτῷ) on Him, on God.— εἰς, to) This may be construed with pattern.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https: 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

’ Alla, the word we translate howbeit, is as well to be translated but, and ordinarily is so.

For this cause, that is, for this end, God showed me mercy.

That in me first; that in me, the first, (so it is in the Greek, for it is an adjective), that is, as he said before, the chiefest or greatest sinner:

Christ might show forth all long-suffering, bearing with me while I was in my rage against his gospel and saints, and then changing my heart to embrace him and to love him. Or, that in me first, may respect the design of our Saviour in sending Paul to convert the Gentiles: for such a conspicuous example of his clemency and grace towards so great a sinner, whom he not only pardoned but preferred to the dignity of an apostle, would be a strong persuasive to them to receive the gospel with faith and obedience. For it follows,

for a pattern, of God’s patience and free grace to other sinners, from whence they might learn, that if they also shall receive and believe in him, their past sins need not be to them any reason to despair in his mercy.

To life everlasting: there being a certain connection between true believing in Christ and eternal life.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https: 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

1 Timothy


1 Timothy 1:16.

The smallest of God’s creatures, if it were only a gnat dancing in a sunbeam, has a right to have its well-being considered as an end of God’s dealings. But no creature is so isolated or great as that it has a right to have its well-being regarded as the sole end of God’s dealings. That is true about all His blessings and gifts; it is eminently true about His gift of salvation. He saves men because He loves them individually, and desires to make them blessed; but He also saves them because He desires that through them others shall be brought into the living knowledge of His love. It is most especially true about great religious teachers and guides.

Paul’s humility is as manifest as his self-consciousness when he says in my text, ‘This is what I was saved for. Not merely, not even principally, for the blessings that thereby accrue to myself, but that in me, as a crucial instance, there should be manifested the whole fulness of the divine love and saving power.’ So he puts his own experience as giving no kind of honour or glory to himself, but as simply showing the grace and infinite love of Jesus Christ. Paul disappears as but a passive recipient; and Christ strides into the front as the actor in his conversion and apostleship.

So we may take this point of view of my text, and look at the story of what befell the great Apostle as being in many different ways an exhibition of the great verities of the Gospel. I desire to signalise, especially, three points here. We see in it the demonstration of the life of Christ; an exhibition of the love of the living Christ; and a marvellous proof of the power of that loving and living Lord.

I. First, then, take the experience of this Apostle as a demonstration of the exalted life, and continuous energy in the world, of Jesus Christ.

What was it that turned the brilliant young disciple of Gamaliel, the rising hope of the Pharisaic party, the hammer of the heretics, into one of themselves? The appearance of Jesus Christ. Paul rode out of Jerusalem believing Him to be dead, and His Resurrection a lie. He staggered into Damascus, blind but seeing, and knowing that Jesus Christ lived and reigned. Now if you will let the man tell you himself what he saw, or thought he saw, you will come to this, that it was a visible, audible manifestation of a corporeal Christ. For it is extremely noteworthy that the Apostle ranks the appearance to himself, on the road to Damascus, as in the same class with the appearances to the other apostles which he enumerates in the great chapter in the Epistle to the Corinthians. He draws no distinction, as far as evidential force goes, between the appearance to Simon and to the five hundred brethren and to the others, and that which flashed upon him and made a Christian of him. Other men that were with him saw the light. He saw the Christ within the blaze. Other men heard a noise; he heard audible and intelligible words in his own speech. This is his account of the phenomenon. What do you think of his account?

There are but three possible answers! It was imposture; it was delusion; it was truth. The theory of imposture is out of court. ‘Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?’ Such a life as followed is altogether incongruous with the notion that the man who lived it was a deceiver. A fanatic he may have been; self-deceived he may have been; but transparently sincere he undeniably was. It is not given to impostors to move the world, as Paul did and does.

Was it delusion? Well it is a strange kind of hallucination which has such physical accompaniments and consequences as those in the story--not wanting confirmation from witnesses--which has come to us.

‘At midday, O king’--in no darkness; in no shut-up chamber, ‘at midday, O king--I heard . . . I saw . . .’ ‘The men that were with me’ partly shared in the vision. There was a lengthened conversation; two senses at least were appealed to, vision and hearing, and in both vision and hearing there were partial participators. Physical consequences that lasted for three days accompanied the hallucination; and the man ‘was blind, not seeing the sun, and neither did eat nor drink.’ There must be some soil beforehand in which delusions of such a sort can root themselves. But, if we take the story in the Acts of the Apostles, there is not the smallest foothold for the fashionable notion, which is entirely due to men’s dislike of the supernatural, that there was any kind of misgiving in the young Pharisee, springing from the influence of Stephen’s martyrdom, as he went forth breathing out threatenings and slaughter. The plain fact is that, at one moment he hated Jesus Christ as a bad man, and believed that the story of the Resurrection was a gross falsehood; and that at the next moment he knew Him to be living and reigning, and the Lord of his life and of the world. Hallucinations do not come thus, like a thunderclap on unprepared minds. Nor is there anything in the subsequent history of the man that seems to confirm, but everything that contradicts, the idea that such a revolutionary change as upset all his mental furniture, and changed the whole current of his life, and slammed in his face the door that was wide open to advancement and reputation, came from a delusion.

I think the hallucination theory is out of court, too, and there is nothing left but the old-fashioned one, that what he said he saw, he saw , and did not fancy; and that which he said he heard, he heard ; and that it was not a buzzing of a diseased nerve in his own ears, but the actual speech of the glorified Christ. Very well, then; if that be true, what then? The old-fashioned belief--Jesus who died on the Cross is living, Jesus who died on the Cross is glorified, Jesus who died on the Cross is exalted to the throne of the universe, puts His hand into the affairs of the world as a power amongst them. Paul’s Christology is but the rationale of the vision that led to Paul’s conversion. It was in part because he ‘saw that Just One, and heard the words of His mouth,’ that he declares, ‘God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.’ I do not say that the vision to Paul is a demonstration of the reality of the Resurrection, but I do say that it is a very strong confirmatory evidence, which the opponents of that truth will have much difficulty in legitimately putting aside.

II. Secondly, let me ask you to consider how this man’s experience is an exhibition of the love of the living Lord.

That is the main point on which the Apostle dwells in my text, in which he says that in him Jesus Christ ‘shows forth all long-suffering.’ The whole fulness of His patient, pitying grace was lavished upon him. He says this because he puts side by side his hostility and Christ’s love, what he had believed of Jesus, and how Jesus had borne with him and loved him through all, and had drawn him to Himself and received him. So he established by his own experience this great truth, that the love of Jesus Christ is never darkened by one single speck of anger, that He ‘suffereth long, and is kind’; that He meets hostility with patient love, hatred with a larger outpouring of His affection, and that His only answer to men’s departures from Him in heart and feeling is more mightily to seek to draw them to Himself. ‘Long-suffering’ means, in its true and proper sense, the patient acceptance, without the smallest movement of indignation, of unworthy treatment. And just as Christ on earth ‘gave His back to the smiter, and His cheeks to them that pulled off the hair’; and let the lips of Judas touch His, nor withdrew His face from ‘shame and spitting’; and was never stirred to one impatient or angry word by any opposition, so now, and to us all, with equal boundlessness of endurance, He lets men hate Him, and revile Him, and forget Him, and turn their backs upon Him; and for only answer has, ‘Come unto Me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

Oh, dear brethren, we can weary out all loves except one. By carelessness, rebelliousness, the opposition of indifference, we can chill the affection of those to whom we are dearest. ‘Can a mother forget? Yea, she may forget,’ but you cannot provoke Jesus Christ to cease His love. Some of you have been trying it all your days, but you have not done it yet. There does come a time when ‘the wrath of the Lamb’--which is a very terrible paradox--is kindled, and will fall, I fear, on some men and women who are listening now. But not yet. You cannot make Christ angry. ‘For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern ‘--for the same long-suffering is extended to us all.

And then, in like manner, I may remind you that out of Paul’s experience, as a cardinal instance and standing example of Christ’s heart and dealings, comes the thought that that long-suffering is always wooing men to itself, and making efforts to draw them away from their own evil. In Paul’s case there was a miracle. That difference is of small consequence. As truly as ever Christ spoke to Paul from the heavens, so truly, and so tenderly, does He speak to every one of us. He is drawing us all--you that yield and you that do not yield to His attractions, by the kindliest gifts of His love, by the revelations of His grace, by the movements of His Spirit, by the providences of our days, by even my poor lips addressing you now--for, if I be speaking His truth, it is not I that speak, but He that speaks in me. I beseech you, dear friends, recognise in this old story of the persecutor turned apostle nothing exceptional, though there be something miraculous, but only an exceptional form of manifestation of the normal activity of the love of Christ towards every soul. He loves, He draws, He welcomes all that come to Him. His servant, who stood over the blind, penitent persecutor, and said to him, ‘ Brother Saul!’ was only faintly echoing the glad reception which the elder Brother of the family gives to this and to every prodigal who comes back; because He Himself has drawn Him.

If we will only recognise the undying truth for all of us that lies beneath the individual experience of this apostle, we, too, may share in the attraction of His love, in the constraining and blessed influences of that love received, and in the welcome with which He hails us when we turn. If this man were thus dealt with, no man need despair.

III. Lastly, we may notice how this experience is a manifestation of the power of the living, loving Lord.

The first and plainest thing that it teaches us about that power is that Jesus Christ is able in one moment to revolutionise a life. There is nothing more striking than the suddenness and completeness of the change which passed. ‘One day is with the Lord as a thousand years’; and there come moments in every life into which there is crammed and condensed a whole world of experience, so as that a man looks back from this instant to that before, and feels that a gulf, deep as infinity, separates him from his old self.

Now, it is very unfashionable in these days to talk about conversion at all. It is even more unfashionable to talk about sudden conversions. I venture to say that there are types of character and experience which will never be turned to good, unless they are turned suddenly; while there are others, no doubt, to whom the course is a gradual one, and you cannot tell where the dawn broadens into perfect day. But, in the case of men who have grown up to some degree of maturity of life, either in sensuous sin or crusted over with selfish worldliness, or in any other way, by reason of intellectual pursuits, or others have become forgetful of God and careless of religion--unless such men are in a moment arrested and wheeled round at once, there is very little chance of their ever being so at all.

I am sure I am speaking to some now who, unless the truth of Christ comes into their minds with arresting flash, and unless they are in one moment, into which an eternity is condensed, changed in their purposes, will never be changed.

Do not, my friend, listen to the talk that sudden conversion is impossible or unlikely. It is the only kind of conversion that some of you are capable of. I remember a man, one of the best Christian men in a humble station in life that I ever knew--he did not live in Manchester--he had been a drunkard up to his fortieth or fiftieth year. One day he was walking across an open field, and a voice, as he thought, spoke to him and said, naming him, ‘If you don’t sign the pledge to-day you will be damned!’ He turned on his heel, and walked straight down the street to the house of a temperance friend, and said, ‘I have come to sign the pledge.’ He signed it, and from that day to the day of his death ‘adorned the doctrine of Jesus Christ’ his Saviour. If that man had not been suddenly converted he would never have been converted. So I say that this story of the text is a crucial instance of Christ’s power to lay hold upon a man, and wheel him right round all in a moment, and send him on a new path. He wants to do that with all of you to whom He has not already done it. I beseech you, do not stick your heels into the ground in resistance, nor when He puts His hand on your shoulder stiffen your back that He may not do what He desires with you.

May we not see here, too, a demonstration of Christ’s power to make a life nobly and blessedly new, different from all its past, and adorned with strange and unexpected fruits of beauty and wisdom and holiness? This man’s account of his future, from the moment of that incident on the Damascus road to the headman’s block outside the walls of Rome, is this: ‘If any man be in Christ he is a new creature’; ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ Christ will do that for us all; for long-suffering was shown on the Apostle for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe.

So, you Christian people, it is as much your business as it was Paul’s, to be visible rhetoric, manifest demonstrations in your lives of the truth of the Gospel. Men ought to say about us, ‘There must be something in the religion that has done that for these people.’ We ought to be such that our characters shall induce the thought that the Christ who has made men like us cannot be a figment. Do you show, Christian men, that you are grafted upon the true Vine by the abundance of the fruit that you bring forth? Can you venture to say, as Paul said, If you want to know what Jesus Christ’s love and power are, look at me? Do not venture adducing yourself as a specimen of His power unless you have a life like Paul’s to look back upon.

For us all the fountain to which Paul had recourse is open. Why do we draw so little from it? The fire which burned, refining and illuminating, in him may be kindled in all our hearts. Why are we so icy? His convictions are of some value, as subsidiary evidence to Gospel facts; his experience is of still more value as an attestation and an instance of Gospel blessings. Believe like Paul and you will be saved like Paul. Jesus Christ will show to you all long-suffering. For though Paul received it all he did not exhaust it, and the same long-suffering which was lavished on him is available for each of us. Only you too must say like him, ‘I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.’

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https:

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

A pattern; to show that the chief of sinners who believe in Christ may be pardoned, sanctified, and saved. Upon all who have ever repented and believed, God has bestowed free pardon and the blessings of heavenly grace, that even the chief of sinners may be encouraged to repent of their sins and embrace the Saviour as he is offered in the gospel.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Family Bible New Testament". https: American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

16. ἀλλὰ διὰ τοῦτο ἠλεήθῃν, ἵνα κ.τ.λ.Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, viz., that &c. διὰ τοῦτο emphasises the following ἴνα as in 2 Corinthians 13:10.

ἐν ἐμοὶ πρώτῳ, in me as chief; this is the rendering of the Revisers, and certainly brings out the connexion with ὦν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ of the preceding verse better than A.V. “first.” As Bengel puts it: ‘Incomparabile exemplum Pauli, sive peccatum sive misericordiam spectes.’ This is borne out by the words which follow, that in me as chief Jesus Christ might shew forth (‘display,’ ‘give a signal instance of’) the entire range of His long-suffering. ἄπας (see critical note) is stronger than the more usual πᾶς, and is deliberately used by St Paul here. A close parallel is found in Ephesians 2:7, ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χρ. Ἰη.

μακροθυμίαν. This is a late Greek word, of frequent occurrence in N.T. and LXX., but rarely elsewhere (it is found e.g. in Plutarch). In 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:2 (and generally in St Paul) it is applied to the longsuffering which becomes a Christian apostle; here, as in Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22; 1 Peter 3:20, it is used of God.

πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν κ.τ.λ. ὑποτύπωσις does not occur in the Greek Bible save here and in 2 Timothy 1:13. It is, literally, an ‘outline sketch,’ and so a ‘pattern’ or ‘ensample’; and the meaning is that the purpose of the manifestation of the Divine longsuffering to St Paul was that he might furnish a type or ensample of them which should hereafter believe. A somewhat similar expression is found in 2 Peter 2:6, ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβεῖν τεθεικώς, where it is applied to the Cities of the Plain, which were, as we say in common speech, ‘made an example of’ for their abominations.

πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ εἰς ζωἡν αἰώνιον. Faith in Christ has as its consequent eternal life. For πιστ. ἐπʼ αὐτῷ, cp. Isaiah 28:16 (quoted in Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11) πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ οὐ καταισχυνθήσεται.

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"Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https: 1896.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘However that may be it was for this reason that I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an example of those who would thereafter believe on him to eternal life.’

And it was because he was the very chief of sinners, that he had obtained mercy, so that in him, as the chief, Jesus Christ might show forth all His longsuffering, compassion and mercy by redeeming him. And He had done it in order that all others who believed might see in Paul an example of that longsuffering of Jesus Christ, thus encouraging them when they also believed. None would ever doubt the possibility of acceptance once Paul had been accepted. All would know that if Jesus Christ could accept Paul, He would stoop down to the very lowest of the low.

‘Believe on Him to eternal life.’ This was how Jesus saved sinners. For all who believed on Him received eternal life (e.g. Romans 5:21; Romans 6:23; Acts 13:48; John 3:15-16; John 5:24; 1 John 5:11; 1 John 5:13), the life of the age to come, and became ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4) and ‘new creatures in Christ Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). This was what He had come for, and this was what He wanted to give to all who would receive it.

‘An example (hupotupowsis).’ The word is used in external literature of an outline sketch or of a word picture. Paul was a clear portrayal to all others of the grace and compassion of Christ.

‘Believed on Him (epi with the dative).’ This is a rare construction in the New Testament with pisteuow, but is found also in Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https: 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16. St. Paul now gives the divine side of his wonderful experience. What could God mean by granting mercy to so unparalleled a sinner? Be sure God knew that the very prominence of the sinner rendered his salvation a pre-eminent specimen and type that no sinner hereafter need despair, or be despaired of. Who may not be converted if Saul the persecutor became an apostle?

Longsuffering—For, although the period of his heinous sin was comparatively brief, yet that God did not smite him down in wrath was a wonderful patience.

To, unto, everlasting life—The glorious aim and result of that believe. And now St. Paul, having attained this lofty climax, everlasting life, seems to make an upward spring into the coming doxology.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https: 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

God was unusually merciful to Paul because He desired to make the apostle an example of how God can change the worst of sinners into the best of saints. His greatest enemy became His greatest servant. In the light of Paul"s conversion no one should conclude that his or her sin is too great for God to forgive. God may be patient with anyone since He was patient with Paul.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https: 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Timothy 1:16. For this cause. Besides the ignorance that made mercy possible, there was a Divine wisdom working out a purpose of love. In him ‘first,’ or ‘chief (as a greater, more typical instance than any other), Christ Jesus would snow forth all the long-suffering which marked God’s dealings with the world. That word, also, St. Paul had been thus taught to place high in the catalogue of Divine attributes (Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22), in that of the human excellences which were after the pattern of the Divine (2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:12; 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:2), the characteristic of love in man (1 Corinthians 13:4) as in God.

Pattern. The outline sketch which served as a pattern for others to fill up with the colouring or shadows which made it, as it were, in harmony with their own experience.

Hereafter. Strictly speaking, ‘thereafter,’ starting from the moment of his conversion . . . We cannot doubt that’ it was then that St. Paul began to encourage others by pointing to himself.

Life everlasting. Better perhaps ‘eternal’ Here also, as with coming into the world,’ we note St. Paul’s use of a word which, though not peculiar to St. John, is yet eminently characteristic of him, occurring seventeen times in his Gospel, and six times in his First Epistle.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https: 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 Timothy 1:16. ἀλλά: This is not adversative, but rather continues from 1 Timothy 1:13, and develops the expression of self-depreciation. The connexion is: “I was such a sinner that antecedently one might doubt whether I could be saved or was worth saving. But Christ had a special object in view in extending to me His mercy.”

διὰ τοῦτο, followed by ἵνα and referring to what follows, occurs in Romans 4:16, 2 Corinthians 13:10, Ephesians 6:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, Philemon 1:15. See also Romans 13:6. ἐν ἐμοί is used as in Galatians 1:16; Galatians 1:24, and as ἐν ἡμῖν in 1 Corinthians 4:6. I was an object lesson in which Christ displayed the extent of His longsuffering.

πρώτῳ: Alford correctly says that the foll. μελλόντων proves that St. Paul here combines the senses first (A.V.) and as chief (R.V.).

τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν: the utmost longsuffering which he has (Blass, Grammar, p. 162). Here (261) renders μακροθ. longanimitatem. Chrys., followed by Alf. and Ell., explains, “Greater longsuffering He could not show in any case than in mine, nor find a sinner that so required all His longsuffering; not a part only”. If there had been only one soul of sinful man to save, it would have needed the Incarnation to save that soul. In St. Paul’s case, conversion had been preceded by a long internal struggle on his part, and patience on Christ’s part: “It is hard for thee to kick against the goad”. ἅπας only occurs in the Pauline epistles again in Ephesians 6:13. Its use “is confined principally to literary documents” (Moulton and Milligan, Expositor, vii, vi. 88).

πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν τῶν μελλόντων: The use of the genitive here is paralleled exactly in 2 Peter 2:6, ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβεῖν, “an example unto those that should live ungodly”; and 1 Corinthians 10:6, ταῦτα δὲ τύποι ἡμῶν ἐγενήθησαν; also 1 Timothy 4:12, where see reff. It does not mean as R.V. (an ensample of them), that St. Paul was the first specimen of Jesus’ work of grace, but rather as A.V. (a pattern to them), that no one who ever afterwards hears the gracious invitation of Christ need hang back from accepting it by reason of the greatness of his sin, when he has the example of St. Paul before him (so Chrys.). The ὑποτύπωσις, of course, is the whole transaction of St. Paul’s conversion in all its bearings, ad informationem eorum qui credituri sunt illi (Vulg.). Bengel compares Psalms 32:5-6, “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this let every one that is godly pray unto thee,” etc.

πιστεύειν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ: πιστεύειν is usually followed by εἰς and the acc., or the simple dat. But ἐπί with acc., and ἐν are also found. The construction in the text is due to an unconscious recollection of Isaiah 28:16 (also quoted Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11, 1 Peter 2:6); and no other explanation need be sought. The only other certain instance of the same construction is Luke 24:25. The critical editors reject it in Matthew 27:42.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https: 1897-1910.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

“Yet for this reason I found mercy”: Seeing that Paul was the foremost or chief of sinners, God could use him as an example or pattern for all to follow. If the chief sinner can be forgiven then all other sinners can be forgiven, as well, if they only repent. “Paul becomes the ‘specimen’ sinner as an encouragement to all who come after him” (Robertson p. 564). “It must be acknowledged that no example could be more proper, to encourage the greatest sinners in every age to repent, than that pardon which Christ granted to one, who has so furiously persecuted His church” (Macknight p. 191). By forgiving Paul, Jesus made him a prime example of what His grace can do. “No sinner should think he is a hopeless case” (Reese p. 33).

“So that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life”

“Perfect patience”: “Is the divine attribute of God whereby He does not at once punish the sinner but forbears long under provocation and gives him opportunity to repent” (Hiebert p. 43). Instead of striking Paul dead for persecuting Christians, God was patient and gave him time and an opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9).

“As an example for those who would believe”: “His conversion had world significance. Paul stood before the eyes of all after generations as a witness to the power, the grace, and the love of the Lord, so that the greatest of sinners need not doubt that grace” (pp. 43-44). “If a sinner like Saul of Tarsus could be spared and receive salvation, so may other sinners” (Kent p. 94).

The term “example” means a pattern, outline, sketch and model. In like manner to Paul, all other sinners can be forgiven if they repent and come to Jesus as well, including the need to be baptized (Acts 22:16).

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https: 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

for this cause = on account of (App-104. 1 Timothy 1:2) this.

first. See "chief", 1 Timothy 1:16.

for. App-104.

pattern. Greek. hupotuposis. Only here and a Tim. 1 Timothy 1:13.

to = of.

should hereafter = are about to.

believe on. App-150

to. App-104. life. App-110.

everlasting. App-161. Paul was converted through the visible appearance of the Lord from heaven, Others will be (Zechariah 12:10).

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https: 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

Howbeit - contrasting his own conscious sinfulness with God's gracious mercy to him.

That in me - in my case. As I was 'foremost' (1 Timothy 1:15) in sin, so God has made me the 'foremost' (not "first") sample of mercy.

Show - to His own glory [ endeixeetai (Greek #1731): middle voice, Ephesians 2:7].

All long-suffering , [ teen (Greek #3588) hapasan (Greek #5370) - 'the whole (of His)] long-suffering;' namely, in bearing so long with me while a persecutor.

A pattern , [ hupotupoosin (Greek #5296), 'for an adumbration:' 'for a type-like sample of (for) them,' etc. (1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11 : tupoi (Greek #5179))] - to assure the greatest sinners that they shall not be rejected in coming to Christ, since even Saul found mercy. No greater long-suffering can be required in the case of any other than was exercised in my case. So David made his own pardon, notwithstanding his great sin, a sample to encourage other sinners to seek pardon (Psalms 33:5-6). Literally, 'a sketch' or outline-the 'filling up to take place in each man's case.

Believe on him - belief rests ON Him, the only foundation on which faith relies. [ Pisteuein (Greek #4100) autoo (Greek #846) expresses simply believing Him; pisteuein (Greek #4100) en (Greek #1722) autoo (Greek #846) involves union with Him; pisteuein (Greek #4100) eis (Greek #1519) auton (Greek #846) (only in John and Peter), a fuller mystical union, with the notion of mental motion toward; pisteuein epi autoo, reliance upon; pisteuein epi auton, mental motion toward, with a view to reliance on, Him (Ellicott).]

To life everlasting - the ultimate aim which faith always keeps in view (Titus 1:2).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https: 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

For this very reason. See notes on Acts 9:1-2. If God was willing to save "Saul the Destroyer," it ought to serve as proof that God is willing to save all who come to Him through Christ!!!

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "The Bible Study New Testament". https: College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16)Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy.—In spite of this deep consciousness of his guilt, faith and confidence in his own salvation seem never to have wavered. He speaks of this with all certainty, and proceeds to tell us with great clearness why Christ saved him, the chief of sinners.

That in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering.—If Christ could show mercy to him, surely in after times the greatest of sinners need never doubt the Redeemer’s power and will to save. St. Paul’s conversion foretold many a patient waiting on the part of the Lord, much long-suffering, which would never hurry to punish His enemies, but which would tarry long, in the hope of the sinner repenting while it was yet time.

For a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him.—Men were to learn that such conversions as his were to be looked forward to as no uncommon occurrences—conversion of blasphemers, of persecutors, whom the Lord would tarry long for, till they, too, coming to the knowledge of the truth, should acknowledge Him. Thus to all sinners was St. Paul a pattern—an example of the Lord’s long-suffering, of His patient waiting. His gracious Master had dealt with him like a king, who, when judging the case of a rebel city, pardons the chief rebel. If God would redeem Saul the persecutor, none need despair of finding mercy.

To life everlasting.—And the goal—which lay before these poor redeemed sinners, who, like St. Paul, in faith and loving trust in Jesus had found peace and acceptance—was eternal life.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https: 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
for this
Numbers 23:3; Psalms 25:11; Isaiah 1:18; 43:25; Ephesians 1:6,12; 2:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:10
I obtained
13; 2 Corinthians 4:1
Exodus 34:8; Romans 2:4,5; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:9,15
for a
2 Chronicles 33:9-13,19; Isaiah 55:7; Luke 7:47; 15:10; 18:13,14; 19:7-9; 23:43; John 6:37; Acts 13:39; Romans 5:20; 15:4; Hebrews 7:25
John 3:15,16,36; 5:24; 6:40,54; 20:31; Romans 5:21; 6:23; 1 John 5:11,12

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:

1 Timothy 1:16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

"For this cause I obtained mercy" has some serious ramifications! For this cause only! Paul had nothing of worth that God would save him for. Paul could do nothing in his future of worth that God would save him for. Paul could teach noone in his future of worth that God would save him for. He was saved to show forth the glory of God - plain and simple - I might add this goes for each and every one of us. We had nor have anything to offer Him that would move Him to save us!

The term "first" is the same word translated "chief" in verse 1 Timothy 1:15. Again drawing attention to Paul as the first or the example.

This verse seems to back my thoughts on verse thirteen. Paul seems to have been an example to those that come to the Lord - of the long-suffering and mercy of God in saving all types of sinners.

One of the quotes I read mentioned the fact that we should give serious consideration to the sinfulness of our old life.

David Brainard was a person that was very introspective and always viewed himself as the lowest of low before God. If you read much of his writing, you will find that he knew what he was!

I think that God included these thoughts in the Word for us to realize that no matter how bad our pre-salvation life was, that if He could forgive and use Paul in the ministry, that he can use anyone in the ministry.

No matter how low you were in your life before, the Lord can use you in His work.

There are hundreds of testimonies of people that were saved out of the dregs of society and the Lord picked them up, washed them up, polished them up and put them into His service.

One such man was a drunk tending bar many years ago. He had been confronted with the Gospel and one night he dropped to his knees behind the bar and asked God to forgive him of his sin and accepted the Lord. God sent him off to Bible college and he served God as a pastor for many years. He also raised three children. One became a pastor, one a pastor's wife and the other a professional.

This is the hope of all that are saved. WE CAN BE ACCEPTABLE TO HIM, EVEN UNTO SERVING HIM!

Christ choose Paul to be His prime spokesman. He selected this one that illustrates the depth of what man could be so that - may I say - no one has an excuse not to be saved.

Indeed, when someone spoke to lost Stanley Derickson I stated, He can"t save me - I"ve done wrong and the answer was - He can save anyone. This passage illustrates that truth for us.

There is another application to this verse which Wiersbe mentions. "But there is a special application of this to today"s people of Israel, Paul"s countrymen, for whom he had a special burden . . . The people of Israel, like unconverted Saul of Tarsus, are religious, self-righteous, blind to their own Law and its message of the Messiah, and unwilling to believe. One day, Israel shall see Jesus Christ even as Paul saw Him; and the nation shall be saved." THE BIBLE EXPOSITION COMMENTARY Warren Wiersbe; Victor Books; Wheaton; 1989; P 213.

The term translated "pattern" is used in classical Greek of a model that is brought before an artist to be drawn or painted. It has the idea of an outline or drawing.

Paul is a pattern of all Christ wants to do in mankind. This was His purpose in coming into the world, this was His desire in coming into the world, and this was his only reason in coming into the world.

I wonder even more if Paul wasn"t something really special in God"s plan. Christ Himself appeared to him. Why? What is the significance of this? Christ appeared to no one else in this way.

I personally see in these verses Paul revealing that Christ had special plans and special reasons for His treatment of Paul. Remember the three years of personal attention to Paul.

Paul wasn"t just blessed, but he was special in some way. He was first among many others to come. His specialness was in God"s plan, not what or who he was as a human being!

Christ didn"t tell Paul of his being a pattern in the record of Acts thus it must have been face to face at a later time - put yourself in Paul"s place when Christ revealed this truth to him.

It is clear that Christ is central - he provided - He showed mercy - for HIS purpose. Christ was not responding to what he saw in Paul, but He was responding to His plan.

Paul was to be an example looking back to his sin and he should be an example in his post-salvation life. Let"s think of his example for a few moments. What type of man was Paul? What did he have to go through?





near drowning

walked all over Asia Minor and the near east

served in the harshest of circumstances

served without pay

served where ever and whenever he could




How do you measure up to his example?

He was transformed from the chief persecutor of Christ to the chief spokesman for Christ. Just give me an example that shows more of a change than that!

As I have observed life and the testimonies of believers, it is often the man that was saved out of the terrible life that is most active in the Lord"s work. Several of the more forceful evangelists of recent centuries have been men that knew of the sin that they preached against.

It often is the believer that is raised in a Christian environment that is weak in preaching against the sin of the world.

One might wonder about Paul"s denigration of himself. Just how can we help Paul improve his self image. He is so down on himself. We really must make him feel better about himself! His self worth is so lacking. His self esteem is so poor. NOT! He has a true understanding of who he is and who Christ is and what the results of that merger was. Paul is improved only by the blood of Christ.

While preparing this study I had to wonder, are "chief" and "first" relating to more than example - is this a picture of the gospel going to the gentiles before Cornelius? Most feel that Cornelius was the first indication in Acts that the Gospel would be going to the gentiles. Paul was a Roman citizen as well as a Jew. Actually being a Jew and a Roman, he was a picture of the bridge between the two - Judaism and Christianity/gentiles, as well as an example of the Gospel going to the nations.

The verse also mentions that Christ was using Paul to show forth the long-suffering of God toward those that have not yet come to Him. The term long-suffering is also translated patience at times.

It is used in 1 Peter 3:20 "Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water"

God waited quite some time to destroy the ungodly - He waited 80 to 100 years! He truly is long-suffering! (Genesis 5:32; Genesis 6:10 cf. Genesis 7:11)

By the way, have you heard of the newest discovery concerning Noah. The man that discovered the Titanic has also discovered proof of the flood - in the words of the news media at least. He has discovered proof that the Black Sea at one time was a lake and that there was a breaking of a natural dam which inundated this lake area with saltwater from the Mediterranean Sea, thus proving that Noah did build an ark.

The problem with that is that it would be a local flood and not a universal flood. There also is no indication that the flood that this man has proven is the flood of the Bible. There could well be proof that this lake did exist and that it was a disaster, but there is no proof at all that this was the flood that the Bible speaks of. The media just never ceases!

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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:16". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books". https:

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